Smith College Admission Academics Student Life About Smith news Offices
Five College Calendar
Smith eDigest
Submit an Idea
News Archive
News Publications
Planning an Event
Contact Us
News & Events

When Bloom These Stinky Plants, Local Group Decides to Dance

Maybe it’s the strong malodorous emission that’s been said to resemble rotting flesh. Perhaps it’s the shape of the plant with its towering stalk jutting from amid a vast scarlet skirt.

Wake Robin Morris dancers celebrating outside the Lyman Conservatory.

The Titan Arum stinkily blooms inside.

The famous Titan Arum in full bloom.

Whatever the characteristics about the Titan Arum, the infamously stinky plant that bloomed to much local fanfare last month in the Lyman Conservatory, it inspired a spectrum of responses, curiosities and to-dos.

One of the more artful celebrations of the odorously offensive bloom was a gathering of the Wake Robin Morris dancers outside the windowed door inside which the Titan Arum sprung in late July.

The local Morris dancers clicked their heels “in honor of the Titan Arum flower,” explained Janice Mason, administrative assistant in Neilson Library and a member of the group. “We called ourselves the Mighty Titans. We dance for fertility,” she continued, “and that thing sure looks like it represents fertility to us.”

Morris dance is an ancient English folk dance in which members of the group perform jaunty, rhythmic steps in unison. There are about 150 Morris dance groups in the United States.

Mason, who immigrated to the United States from Northampton, England, in 1967, has pranced with the local Wake Robin Morris dancers for 15 years.

The group also includes Rachel Roy ’04, Margaret Bruchac ’99 and Jennifer Hall-Witt, a lecturer in history, and was named after a plant that, like the Titan Arum, is known for its stink. “It too smells of carrion,” remarked Mason of the Wake Robin (trillium erectum), also sometimes called the “Stinky Benjamin,” “so it was just a small step to be excited by the Titan Arum.”

So on July 22, as the Titan Arum unsheathed its projecting glory along with its fetid stench, the Wake Robin Morris group ushered its arrival in rhythmic fashion. The troupe made costumes especially for the occasion, featuring an appliqué of the Titan Arum, and danced through a thunderstorm to do so.

The college’s Titan Arum grew from a seed from Sumatra. The plant, an endangered species that blooms once every three to five years, bloomed for only the second time at Smith this year. View photos of the Titan Arum’s blooming sequence on the Botanic Garden Web site.

8/11/08   Eric Sean Weld
DirectoryCalendarCampus MapVirtual TourContact UsSite A-Z